IN A significant policy announcement designed to get his campaign back on track, Mr Johnson revived his pledge from the EU referendum campaign to introduce a ‘tough’ points-based system modelled on the arrangement used Down Under.
It came as Mr Johnson was criticised by a leading Brexiteer over his claim there would be no trade tariffs on UK exports in the event of a No Deal Brexit. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox – who is backing remainer Jeremy Hunt for leader – accused Mr Johnson of relying on ‘supposition’ instead of ‘facts’.
Mr Johnson’s immigration pledge would see Britain’s system refocused on highly skilled workers – and could result in a ban on over-50s. Prospective migrants would have to have a firm job offer before travelling and demonstrate ‘an ability to speak English’. They would be unable to claim benefits until they had completed a qualifying period in work.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We must be much more open to high-skilled immigration such as scientists, but we must also assure the public that, as we leave the EU, we have control over the number of unskilled immigrants coming into the country. We must be tougher on those who abuse our hospitality. Other countries such as Australia have great systems and we should learn from them.’
Sources in the Johnson campaign team last night said legislation would be introduced immediately through changes to the existing Immigration Bill.
But the new system will not be up and running until 2021, and the announcement made no mention of the Tory pledge to cut net immigration, which stands at 283,000 a year, to the ‘tens of thousands’.
The system will be based on the scheme used in Australia, where prospective migrants are scored on a points system to determine their value to the economy. Key factors include qualifications, skills and age. Applicants have to be aged under 50 to apply. EU migrants would not receive special treatment. But Mr Johnson said EU citizens already here would have their rights protected unilaterally, even if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.